Publication Date: April 12th, 2016
A mesmerizing novel that transports readers to a sunny Portuguese town with a shadowy past—where two women, decades apart, are drawn into a dark game of truth and lies that still haunts the shifting sea marshes.
Traveling to Faro, Portugal, journalist Joanna Millard hopes to escape an unsatisfying relationship and a stalled career; Faro is an enchanting town, and the seaside views are enhanced by the company of Nathan Emberlin, a charismatic younger man. But Joanna soon realizes that behind the crumbling facades of Moorish buildings Faro has a seedy underbelly, its economy compromised by corruption and wartime spoils. And Nathan has an ulterior motive for seeking her company: he is determined to discover the truth involving a child’s kidnapping that may have taken place on this dramatic coastline more than two decades ago.
Joanna’s subsequent search leads her to Ian Rylands, an English expat who cryptically suggests she will find answers in The Alliance, a novel written by American Esta Hartford. The book recounts an American couple’s experience in Portugal during World War II, and their entanglements both personal and professional with their German enemies. Only Rylands insists the book isn’t fiction, and as Joanna reads deeper into The Alliance, she begins to suspect that Esta Hartford’s story and Nathan Emberlin’s may indeed converge in Faro—where the past not only casts a long shadow but still exerts a very present danger.
What Did I Think About the Story?
I can't start this review without mentioning that both of Deborah Lawrenson's previous novels - The Lantern and The Sea Garden - are among my favorite novels and are solid 5-star books for me (click on each title to read my review). I am so impressed with her ability to twist around a mystery and keep me surprised as well as drench my senses with her skillful descriptions. I've been on the look out for her next novel and did a little dance when I saw 300 Days of Sun come up for review. So, did this newest novel make it to my favorites list? Unfortunately, while there were still aspects I did enjoy, I can't say that, for me, this newest venture quite lives up to its predecessors.
Now, I will say that Ms. Lawrenson's skills at description are still on point in 300 Days of Sun. From the beginning the main location - Faro, Portugal - is described beautifully, with warmth and sunlight mixed with deterioration and decay. We see beautiful old building by the sea left to rot and seemingly innocent and kind locals tinged with darker, hidden components. Everything seems a contrast: the warmth and light at odds with the darkness and shadow that, for years, stayed hidden but is now starting to come back into the light given the increased political and economic strife of the country. This very aspect - the politics and economic hardships of the area - is exactly where my interest began to wane.
From reading the description, I was very excited to see how this novel dealing with WWII and German Nazis might relate to the missing children that our characters in the present storyline are trying to locate. Unfortunately the story didn't quite unfold the way I expected. I didn't find the modern storyline very interesting and the rushed and lukewarm romance between Joanna and Nathan seemed kind of unnecessary. They don't seem all that interested in the history of Faro except where it relates to the missing children (or one child in particular really) and I kind of had a hard time caring about their search after a while. The WWII storyline seemed just a means to an end and really didn't play as much into this modern mystery as I would have liked. This is a real shame in my opinion, actually, since the story that unfolds within the pages of The Alliance was my favorite part.
I think it's brilliant that the past is told through excerpts from this book dealing with Portugal during WWII and immediately following it. We learn pretty quickly that there is truth within the pages of The Alliance and it was trying to decipher what those truths were that kept me reading through these snippets. The most interesting part, and something I did not know before reading this book, was just how varied the populace of Portugal was during that time. Not only do they have the well-meaning Portuguese but foreigners from both the Allied and Axis countries mingling together, pretending at cordialities but really spying on each other, some working as double agents. The characters within this story were far more interesting than the present timeline and I couldn't help but wish that the majority of the story was what was happening in The Alliance instead of the other way around.
While the missing children aspect didn't work into the story as I expected and really wasn't as interesting as I anticipated, I still loved trying to figure out where the story was headed and how we would ever get from what happened in the 40s and 50s to the hunt that was happening in the present time. In this same vein, while I think there were aspects of the story that seemed unnecessary and didn't really add to the plot (discussions about someone killing seabirds, the "romance' between Joanna and Nathan), I can't state enough that the descriptions are absolutely beautiful and it was easy to travel along with the various characters in their adventures and their searches for truth. I wasn't very satisfied by the ending, either, but all in all I was along for the ride and never felt like I wanted to just give up but continued as I luxuriated in the authors wonderful way with words.
All in all I am still a fan of Deborah Lawrenson's writing even as this is my least favorite of her books that I've read. I have a feeling that my being such a fan girl worked against my enjoyment of this novel, so others might enjoy it more. However, if I am recommending her books, I would definitely recommend starting with The Lantern as it is my favorite of her novels to date.
What Did I Think About the Cover?
I think it's perfect for the story! Such a big part of the description of Faro and the Algarve coast has to do with the beautiful water and these large rocks shooting out of it like little mountains, shaped and reshaped by the unpredictable and always shifting waters. It's bright and beautiful and makes me think of not only sunshine and happiness but also the danger of the jagged rocks. There's also fake scratches and scuffs on the cover, making me think of a picture thats older and used, which evokes the older storyline expressed in Esta Hartford's novel. I can't really think of a better cover for the book.
My Rating: 3.0/5.0
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me with a free copy of 300 Days of Sun in exchange for an honest review! Be sure to continue below for information on the author, the book, and the blog tour!
Buy the Book
About the Author
Find out more about Deborah at her website, read more at her blog, and connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to offer up one copy of 300 Day of Sun for giveaway, open to US only! All you have to do is enter your name and email address on the giveaway form HERE. Please be sure to leave both your name and your email on the form so I can contact you if you are my winner (no email address, no entry!). For extra entries you can follow the blog in various ways (all links are on the right hand sidebar) and leave the name/email you follow with on the form. That's it!
I'll use a random number generator to pick a winner on April 27th, 2016 and will announce the winner here as well as email the winner for their mailing address. The winner will have 48 hours to respond to my email before I have to pick another winner. If you have already won this giveaway on another site please let me know so I can pick a new winner and give someone else a chance to win a copy of this great book.
TLC Blog Tour of 300 Days of Sun
Tuesday, April 12th: Raven Haired Girl
Thursday, April 14th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Friday, April 15th: Luxury Reading
Monday, April 18th: Read. Write. Repeat.
Tuesday, April 19th: FictionZeal
Thursday, April 21st: A Literary Vacation
Monday, April 25th: Lavish Bookshelf
Tuesday, April 26th: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Wednesday, April 27th: From the TBR Pile
Thursday, April 28th: Kahakai Kitchen
TBD: Curling Up by the Fire